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Soft Tissue Heating Apparatus With Independent, Cooperative Heating Sources - Patent 6358273

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FIELD OF INVENTIONThis invention relates generally to medical probes used for contracting soft tissue, and more particularly, to medical probes for shrinking damaged collagen tissue by applying heat.BACKGROUNDMedical probes for the rehabilitative heat treatment of damaged soft tissues are known in the art. Examples of these probes include laser probes and RF heated probes. While these tools meet the basic need for rehabilitative heat treatment ofsoft tissues, such as collagen tissues, many suffer from temperature over-shoot and under-shoot causing unpredictable results in the heating of soft tissue.Soft tissue is the most abundant tissue in the human body. Most soft tissue is collagen--over 90% of the organic matter in tendon, ligament, and bone is collagen. The connective tissue in joints is soft tissue, generally collagen tissue. Whensoft tissue in a joint is damaged, the healing process is often long and painful.Well known treatments for addressing soft tissue damage in joints include strengthening exercises, open surgery, and arthroscopic techniques. Using current treatments, many people with injured joints suffer from prolonged pain, loss of motion,nerve injury, and some develop osteoarthritis. The soft tissue in many injured joints never heals enough to return the damaged joint to its full function.It is known in the art that non-ablative thermal energy applied to unstable soft tissue, such as collagen tissue, in joints may alter or manipulate the tissue's healing response. In particular, applying controlled thermal energy to damaged softtissue in a joint can cause the collagenous tissue to shrink, thereby tightening unstable joints.Medical probes employing heat for the thermal manipulation of soft tissue are known in the art. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,458,596 to Lax, et al., discloses examples of a probe with a proximal and distal end that employs heat for thecontrolled contraction of soft tissue. However, a potential drawback of many prior art

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